Wednesday, January 27, 2016

On the Way to Work....

Interesting thing happened this morning on the way to work. I'm out of my Quest protein bars, so I stopped by a corner convenience store/gas station to pick up a protein bar to eat later for lunch. I pulled up and parked next to a beaten up old car, packed full of what looked like junk, newspapers covering a part of one window as a sort of sunshade that protected a baby seat. A big guy wearing ratty clothes came out of the store with a monster-sized soda pop, and even though it's a chilly day for San Francisco, all he had on over a t-shirt that was way too small for him as half of his belly was hanging out, was a thin windbreaker.

I went into the store, grabbed my bar, and stood in line as a deathly thin, pale woman in front of me made small talk with the cashier as she was ringing something up for her.

I'd seen these two before in this store at this time of the morning. They've never paid much attention to me, nor me to them, beyond my impression that the woman might be a meth addict, but maybe not because she doesn't have the tell-tale facial scabs, the wrecked teeth, the general unsteadiness that long-term addicts of anything tend to develop.

I paid for my protein bar and headed out to my car. The big guy was still standing on the curb in front of his old beater, but the scrawny woman had gotten in the car and was looking away, as if she were embarrassed.

"Ma'am," the big guy said to me as I unlocked my car door.

I looked up at him, waiting.

"Do you have a dollar you could spare by any chance? We're homeless."

I instantly felt bad, and I empathized with the embarrassed woman, who refused to meet my eyes. "I don't have any bills," I said, regret in my voice. Then I brightened. "I do have some change. Is that okay?"

His face, which had been tense and troubled, relaxed and he said, "Yes! Sure! Whatever you can give."

Now, I have a ton of change in my car. No idea how much. When I get change, I just dump it in a cup. When the cup is full, I bring it inside at home and pour it into the house change jar. So, I just put my paw into the cup and scooped up a bunch of change and walked over to him to put it in his outstretched hand. He met me halfway, of course.

"I don't know how much is there," I said. "But I hope it helps."

"Thank you, thank you!" he said. I got into my car and turned over the engine, and I heard him say over the noise, "Nice car!"

"Except for the dents!" I laughed, then waved, pulled out and was on my way. It's true my ole 2004 Mustang convertible has its fair share of pings and dings and scratches and one nice bump the size of a volleyball in the bumper. I've never managed to set aside enough to get the body fixed.

But once I was about a block away, those voices in my head started in. You know those voices. How do you know they're homeless? How do you know he wasn't just conning you for money? How do you know they're not going to go buy drugs or booze? How do you know, how do you know, how do you know?

Well, they sure looked like they lived in that car.

Sucker, the voices said.

Shut up, I said back.

I was in a position to help. I have a job, I rent a nice condo, I have a car with dents, Chelle has an SUV, we also have a house, we have so much. And all they have is in that beater little car.

It's not my place to second guess or judge them for how they got where they are. And who knows, one day I may be a little old lady, alone, in the same situation. It could've happened unless I'd stopped drinking. It could still happen if I ever pick up again.

What troubles me is why those chastising voices have to chime in to begin with. How have I gotten so warped that even if I give a person in need a handful of change, part of me wants to lecture myself for being a sucker? When did I become so selfish? It's just fucking change.

If they take that change and go buy a lottery ticket with it, I hope they win.

3 comments:

DStyma said...

I think ya done good!

I hear those second guessing concepts, too. But there go we or I except for the Grace of x.

Rita Scranton said...

Great little story. I often have trouble with those little voices.

Joyce said...

Thanks, Rita and Dee. I was just thinking it's kind of sad when a person can't do something nice sometimes without feeling like they just got taken. I'm gonna blame it on today's "gimme, gimme, it's mine" political rhetoric. I need to banish those thoughts! And just run with my heart. It never fails me. :)